This is about love as a social structure. Why do women often need to be acknowledged by men? Why do men often distance themselves from intimacy and feelings? In a culture that encourages gender differences and small children learn early on to behave in a certain way, it's not difficult to understand. Girls identify with their mothers, and develop caring and affirmative characteristics. Boys often don’t identify with their fathers, because they are absent. They have no role model and therefore assimilate the sexistic culture. Hence, the culture is maintained. Of course, everything improves through the years. Nowadays, men have parental leave in Sweden and are expected to spend more time with their children, not to mention the fight for gender equality with means such as the concept "hen", an indefinite pronoun that serves to take focus away from expectations concerning gender, but old traditions still form people.
This book analyses the twosome, heterosexual couple, how the society is built upon this structure, and the consequences for gender equality. Strömquist also mentions famous couples that have lived their lives according to this norm, and how it affected them, from historical people like Gustaf Fröding and his self-pity and prostitutes, and Victoria Benedictsson and George Brandes, to people of today, such as Charlie Sheen and Hugh Grant, and recent couples like Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown.
Strömquist is also describing how men opress women to be able to win them over, also a strategy in the book The Game, and whether love and relationships are gender equal. Women sacrifice everything, care about and blow up men's ego, while men do nothing of the sort. Women's identity is constituted by their bodies and what they can offer men. Their destiny is to take care of and comfort other people, and not themselves. The consequence is that men are able to seek their happiness in work or hobbies, encouraged by their wives, and women don't get the encouragement and support from their husbands to do the same. Unbelievably, despite all this, many men still seem to fear marriage, and some of them even have a condescending attitude to women. At the same time, they maintain relationstips with these women. When looking at it more carefully, it’s not very inexplicable. There are researchers that claim that men need women to maintain their independence. Without them, they have no one to be independent of. A study shows that after a divorce, women are feeling happy and feel their self-confidence growing, while men are feeling unhappy and depressed. Even though twosome marriages often mean a kind of ownership which might be unhealthy, it seems that men benefit from it, while women are restricted and not enough supported. So, perhaps, men should learn to appraciate relationships and marriage more. Women often stay in these relationships because they have learned that the only way of self-worth is to be acknowledged and approved by men. When getting hurt, women need comfort, and they also need for their men to comprehend them and therefore they try even harder to explain how they feel to be able to fix the relationship. The psychological mechanisms are very complicated, and of course can't be applied to every one. Most people probably don't think about it, and don't think it's necessary, because people have a choice, right? Of course, most men are nice and most women don't accept a dysfunctional relationship. But what if we are so used to this phenomena that we don't see it? When you start to analyze, you discover this structure that explains a lot about patterns of behavior. There are always many studies and many professional people having opinions, about any subject, and they are not always right about everything, but this book offers interesting analyses that explain some structures of society.